My First ‘Real’ Wedding, Planning, and Practice

Over a year ago, my dear friend Sarah, whom I had met in graduate school, asked me if I would help out in some way for her wedding.  Without hesitation, I said, “Yes!  Of course!”  Then I asked what she needed me to do…which likely should have been the question I asked before I said yes.  See, I was secretly hoping she would ask me to take care of the photography, fingers crossed behind my back and all.  But, Sarah had another idea.  She knew I had some minimal experience with styling hair.  And by “minimal”, I mean I had done the hair of my three best friends at two weddings we were all in together.  Oh!  And I had cut my own bangs a few times as a teenager.  (Disaster!)  The point here is that Sarah wanted me to style her hair and the hair of her bridesmaids on the day of her wedding.  It wasn’t the part I was hoping for, but I was happy to help in any way I could, and I knew I could conquer this challenge.  So, my answer remained the same.  “Of course!”  A couple months later, after thinking further about what she still needed and what she wanted for the wedding, Sarah contacted me and asked if I would mind switching roles.  Instead of styling hair, would I mind taking the photographs?  To that, I must have squealed with delight right in her ear.  “I would LOVE to!”  See, this would be only the second wedding I had ever shot.  And it was for a friend.  A calm, laid-back, low stress friend.  And there would be very little pressure–at least less than if I was being hired by a real customer.  And the wedding would be at the beach. (Double high-five!)  And I would be able to take my then five-year-old son, Tyler, with me.  And I would be gaining more experience, and at the same time, helping out a good friend.  And did I mention it was AT. THE. BEACH?!?!  I couldn’t have been more excited!  But I soon realized that photographing a wedding, even for a super sweet, laid-back friend, was not simply a box of Cracker Jacks.  No matter what expectations Sarah and Darren had, I was determined to do this right.  To give them the best I could possibly give them.  I was going to be pro-active, prepared, and ready for whatever came my way.  This was their wedding.  The one they would have been planning for an entire yearAll of their friends and family would be there.  You can’t just request a do-over if you miss the important shots.  My own professional reputation was at stake.  ….So much for “no pressure”, huh? 

From the moment I realized what a large commitment it was to be the wedding photographer for Sarah and Darren’s wedding, I began planning.  I knew that the event would be taking place outside which was perfect during the day.  But, oh whatintheeverlovin’world am I going to do at the reception when it is DARK?!?!  It was through the next several weeks of Google-ing “reception lighting” that I found the help I had been looking for.  All I can say is, “Thank you sweet Jesus, for Jasmine Star and her blog post on Off Camera Lighting at Wedding Receptions.” This post provided detailed information about the needed equipment, where to purchase the equipment, and how to use the equipment.  BINGO!  I jumped on Adorama, ordered what I needed, waited for it to arrive, and practiced, practiced, practiced.  Not only did I have to practice actually using the equipment, I also had to figure out how to set up the equipment.  The last thing I wanted was to be standing in front of everyone at the wedding, fumbling with a cord or batteries or any other part of the set up, and in the meantime missing the moments that mattered most to the bride and groom.  I wanted to look smooth, professional, and put-together.  At least if I looked that way, no one would know I was actually freaking out inside!  Once I was comfortable with the lighting, I moved on to planning my actual shots.  Herein, I came face-to-face with the truth of the matter.  I had no idea who I was as a photographer.  Could I even be called a photographer?  Did I even have a style?  Did I know what style I even might be?  Nope.  None of it.  And so the research began.  I foraged the Internet for photographers whose work spoke to me…made me feel something.  I read photography blogs.  I dissected images and took into consideration the the venue as well as the personalities of the people I would be shooting.  And I studied everything I could get my hands on, including settings for specific lighting situations, bokeh, and lens options available to give me the effects I wanted in my photos.  And, again, I practiced, practiced, practiced.  At one point, I even strong-armed two of my female friends into pretending that they were the bride and the groom, posing them in an array of positions…all in the name of “practice.”  Hey!  Ya gotta do whatcha gotta do!  There was no harm done.  In fact, the experience proved to be quite therapeutic, as the three of us laughed until we cried!

I left for Sarah and Darren’s wedding on a Thursday evening, and I was confident that I had learned much.  I also knew, however, that I had much, much more to learn…and I still do.  But that weekend, with my equipment packed and a desire to produce a product I could be proud of, I arrived in Emerald Isle, North Carolina.  I was anxious, but I was eager.   And I spent the next three days enjoying my son, celebrating with my friends, and getting to know my photographer-self and my camera.  The results were not the epitome of perfection, but I am proud of what they stand for in my journey as a photographer, and I am even more proud that Sarah and Darren were in love with them.     

I will be posting An Emerald Isle Wedding:  Sarah + Darren this weekend, in honor of Sarah and Darren’s first wedding anniversary. For now, however, enjoy these photos of my practice session with Abby and Kathryn.

Hey, ladies!  You guys absolutely rock! Thanks for helping a sista out! xoxo


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